Well, I took the plunge. I am now living, officially, away from home for the first time. The lease is signed. I opened a bank account, changed my address on my license and all those good things. I am a little nervous, mostly because I have yet to secure employment, but it’s exciting to be here, too. A number of months ago, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to make this move. After a lot of tears, sleepless nights and discussions with my mom, here I am. They sure call them growing pains for a reason, don’t they?
There are a number of reasons why I chose to make the move and I will freely admit that one of them is to connect more closely with Korean culture and other adoptees. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how difficult it can be connecting with Korean adoptees when you don’t live in a big city. The area I’m in isn’t huge, but it is definitely a step up from my tiny suburban hometown which has no significant Korean community or adoptee organization to speak of. Where I grew up is not a bad place to live by any means. It just doesn’t provide what I need anymore. My Korean heritage has become so important to me and the thought of living anywhere that stifles my ability to explore it..hurts. It’s isolating. I needed to break out of those confines.
And I know I’m not the first one to feel this way. Based solely on my own observations, I have noticed something about the Korean adult adoptees I know. Those who are more interested in their heritage tend to live in bigger cities where there is greater diversity and opportunity. Those who are not as interested tend to live in smaller communities where there are fewer opportunities to explore their birth culture. It kind of makes sense. I don’t want to be one hour away from the nearest place that serves soondubu jigae, but someone who never acquired a taste for it wouldn’t miss it!
I don’t know that I can say I regret growing up a Korean child in such a non-Korean place. Can you regret decisions you didn’t make? I don’t really hold a lot of resentment, but sometimes it makes me sad to reflect on the ways in which I was isolated as a girl. Aside from the fellow adoptees I knew through adoption group, I had no Asian friends. I couldn’t use chopsticks or speak a lick of Korean. I didn’t have any Asian adults as role models growing up, either. And now, at 25, it seems I’m trying to make up for lost time. Now I think about the youngest generation of Korean adoptees. Some of them are probably growing up in small, non-diverse areas just as I did. Are they getting what they need? Is it different today than when I was young? I hope so, but I don’t know enough to be sure.
Deep down, I know I won’t settle in my hometown again unless/until my mom ages to the point of needing me there. She’s my mom. I’ll always come back for her. But when I think to the long-term of where I want to spend my life, I want to live someplace that I love where I can be the person I want to be. If I ever have children one day, I want us to live somewhere that I can adequately share my roots with them..because my roots will become their roots as well. And even if they end up not being interested, they at least deserve to know that their heritage is always there for them, ready for them to embrace it at any moment.